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Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Man Who Gave Me His Synagogue: Leadership

Me & Paul Stein - Passover 2011 at Beit Messiah
The best people in life are those who not only say they believe in you but give you an opportunity to become what you are called to be and then support you with everything they have.  Truth be told there are not a lot of people in the world like that.  For me, other than my parents, that person is Paul Stein.  Paul has become a spiritual father for me.  He heard me speak in 2006 at Messiah Conference (International Conference of the MJAA) and came and spoke with me following my, first ever, adult class.  I had been in youth ministry for a few years and my dad gave me opportunities to preach but this was the first time I spoke with original material to a group of adults on a national level.

Following the class, Paul asked me if I would come to Seattle and speak to his congregation.  He offered to pay for the flight, hotel and food while I was in town and I felt like a big shot!  In 2007, I came to Seattle and spoke at Beit Messiah (now Restoration).  The Stein family wined and dined me and even took me to a Seattle Mariners game on Sunday.  It was a great trip.  I went home to New York and back to working with my parents.  By 2008, Laura and I knew that it was time to move on from working with my parents and begin to experiment and try some of my ideas for reaching my generation with the Gospel of Yeshua.

In 2009, we ended up in Maryland to lead a congregation.  It was quite a difficult year for me professionally.  I was a rookie rabbi with a new group of people in a new place.  We made some great friends in Maryland but it was also the most challenging experience in leading a congregation with such divergent views among the leadership, particularly in supporting a young new rabbi. There were so many things I could have done better there and decisions, in hindsight, I should not have made. As hard times often go though, it was great for our marriage because it forced us to lean more on each other and seek the Lord together.

At the end of ten months the congregation in Maryland did not want to move forward with me as their Rabbi and gave us three months severance.  I let a group of rabbi’s know that I was looking for another congregation and within twenty four hours I received a call from Paul Stein in Seattle. 

Paul didn't want to know much about what went wrong in Maryland and asked if we would fly to Seattle to candidate to lead Beit Messiah in Seattle.  I’m a New Yorker.  I was raised to never leave New York.  Some estimate there are still two million Jewish people in New York most of which need to hear the message of Yeshua. Maryland, between Baltimore and Washington D.C. is about three hundred thousand Jewish people.  Seattle has forty thousand.  My question for God was “why would you take me out of such large markets of need for the Gospel and send me to such a small market?”  God’s answer was something to the effect of “it’s none of your business!”

Looking back on these events now I am astonished that Paul trusted and supported me to lead a community he had been faithfully serving (and really kept together) for seven years. By April of 2010, (the exact end of my severance) Paul essentially gave me his congregation (He would say “The Lord’s congregation”).  He stepped down as leader and after six months he had the entire Board of Beit Messiah resign so that I could establish my own Board and move forward with a team that was my own.  Paul stayed on the Board of the congregation for two and a half years and was my biggest supporter and champion.  He relentlessly encouraged me and pushed me to be myself and try some of the things I had been dreaming of.  He not only gave me a salary but gave me his platform.  He leveraged his influence in our small congregation so that I could begin a process of becoming what God had called me to be.  He had no regard for his own reputation and totally trusted this then 31 year old to run with a vision and direction for our congregation in Seattle. I have come to love the city of Seattle with all my heart. I love living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.  I have wanted to be  a Messianic rabbi my whole life and never would have imagined living in this part of the country.  But, almost four years into living here I could not imagine it any other way.  

Paul has been through some really crazy things in the last few years including loosing his sister, his mom, having a stroke and also welcoming his first grandchild into the world.  I pray for Paul, Miria, his kids and his family everyday. I don’t say that as a polite thing to say. I pray for Paul everyday and we get together for lunch as often as we can. For me Paul Stein will always be the guy who gave me a shot.  He has become a spiritual father for me because he went all in for me.  He put everything he had on the line for me.  He believed in me for what he believed God would use me to do not because I had a track record.  He is like Paul, writer of most of the New Testament, and I am Timothy who Paul called his “son in the faith.”

In 2012 and 2013, God has opened incredible doors and opportunities for me to MC and speak and MC at many important Messianic Jewish events.  I MC’d the Asheville Music Festival. I was a speaker and panelist at the last two MLR’s with Jewish Voice Ministries in Phoenix.  I spoke at Messiah 2013 on YMJA night. I MC’d a service at the national conference of the UMJC and was the keynote speaker at Jews For Jesus Ingathering East 2013.  Here’s the point.  I have a resume now and it will only continue to grow (God willing).  But, everything I have done so far and everything I will do comes from that crazy moment in 2006 when Paul Stein heard me speak and began praying, even then, that I would come to Seattle.  Everything that is happening for me professionally goes back to the moment when Paul Stein chose to believe in what he saw in me and then put everything he had on this young unproven leader.  

Messianic Judaism needs more Paul Steins -- more old guys that believe in more young guys. Proven leaders who choose to believe that God has good plans for young leaders.  and then…giving them opportunity and support to become what they are called to be.  Anything that I ever do, all opportunities that God gives me from this point on, will be because Paul gave me his congregation, passed the baton, and continues to encourage me…his last email to me this week said, “You are doing a great job. Continue on the path that God has placed before you.  You are strong in the Lord and He will continue to bless the work of your hands.”

Thank you, Paul.  Thank you for believing in me and taking a chance on me.  Thank you for seeing me for what I can be and giving me so many opportunities to succeed.  I thank God everyday for you and pray that so many of my friends will find their own Pauls.  I want my whole life to be about making Yeshua famous among my people, Israel, and every nation under heaven. I thank God for putting you in my life to encourage me and push me to be everything God wants me to be!  

Our relationship is the definition of what our people call L’dor v’dor (from Generation to Generation). Paul, I owe you another lunch this month. I love you man!


Update: Dec. 31st 2014 (Paul's Birthday)
2014 has been one of the best years of my life in ministry. So many amazing things God continues to do. 2014 was also the best year ever for Restoration (formerly Beit Messiah). We are believing that 2015 will be even better and all that is happening goes back to the moment when Paul Stein believed in me and empowered me to lead a small community in Seattle which is on the verge of realizing its potential!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Praying For Baby David and the Del Risco Family!

David Del Risco
Some really difficult things happen to the best people. Today (10/23) is one of those days. Just a week ago (10/16) Nick and Gisela Del Risco gave birth to their third child.  David is a tiny blessing that came five weeks early.  Today, the doctors diagnosed David with Down Syndrome and as is common in children with Down Syndrome they are concerned with what may be heart problems. 

Nick and Gisela are not young and early on they were encouraged to have an abortion.  As their Rabbi I am so proud of them for having the courage to choose life.  We are praying today that God will heal David's heart and that there will not be any further complications.  David means "Beloved of God" and Yeshua is deeply in love with this child as will be anyone who meets him.

Nick just got a promotion at work three weeks ago but is under significant stress in the beginning of a nine-month training.  At the end of the training is a test that will determine if he keeps this promotion.  

Elizabeth and Jonathan definitely know things are not right as their brother is having to stay in the hospital.  Jonathan already has toys set up for his little brother and they all want little David to go home. Gisela is quite a strong little lady.  There is not a more difficult role than the mother who is responsible to nurture, feed and protect this new life.  

Elizabeth, Giselle, Nick, & Jonathan
So, friends, please pray with us.  Pray that God will move in David's life and heal his heart and help him to be strong.  Nick and Gisela were so moved by all the people from our synagogue that have already stepped up and in to help.  We plan to walk this out with the Del Risco family and do our best to take care of them.

We hope together.  We pray together.

Gisela said they named him David and he is already fighting to slay giants and her faith inspires me to trust God more. My prayer is little David will grow and bring massive amounts of joy to his family and our synagogue. 

Today, we choose life for David and the Del Risco family and we choose to seek the face of God and give Yeshua an opportunity to do what He does best.  He weeps, He cries, He hears, He heals, He sees and above all He has a future for this wonderful new life!

Pray with us!

Update: Thursday, Oct. 31st, 2013

In the process of all that is happening for the Del Risco family, Nick lost his promotion at work. At this time, it is not such a bad thing as it removes some stree for Nick and the family.  The Doctors want to wait 6 weeks (from 10/16) to determine the next steps for little David and his heart.  Let's keep praying for the David and the whole Del Risco family.  We are believing God with them for great miracles!

Update: Thursday, Nov. 7th, 2013

I spent some time with Gisella in the hospital today with David.  Great news…the hole in David’s heart is healing on its own.  In fact, it is so small that they are confident it will not be issue.  With that, David will be going home tomorrow (Friday, Nov. 8th).
Please keep praying for David’s health and for Nick & Gisella that God will give them wisdom with all they have on thier plate!  Pray for Elizabeth and Jonathan (big sister and brother) as well!

Update: Wednesday, Jan. 15th, 2014

This Shabbat (1/18/14) we are having a bady dedication for David and his siblings, Elizabeth & Jonathan.  David is doing very well and the Del Risco's have been so encouraged by the love and support of so many!  What a blessing this wonderful family is to our community!

Thanksgivukkah: Pass The Cranberry Sauce and Latkes!

On November 28th of this year we will celebrate an incredible combination of holidays that is being called Thanksgivukkah. Thanksgivukkah is far less common than other combo holidays such as Christmahanakwanzika and Chrismukkah. In fact, for only the second time in history Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fall on the same day on the standard calendar! The last time was 1888 and some are saying the next time will not be for another 79,000 years!  By that time menorahs will probably light themselves and turkeys will most likely be extinct, so, my advice for Thanksgivukkah 2013 is celebrate! Before I give you some tips how, let me tell you some of the history according to Wikipedia.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Greeks of the 2nd century BC. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.

Many believe that Thanksgiving goes back to a celebration of the day in 1621 at Plymouth, Massachusetts. But, from the time of the Founding Fathers until the time of the civil war, the date Thanksgiving was observed varied from state to state. The final Thursday in November had become the customary date in most U.S. states by the beginning of the 19th century. Thanksgiving was first celebrated on the same date by all states in 1863 by a presidential proclamation of Abraham Lincoln. It wasn't until December 26, 1941, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. 

For the first time in a long time and for the last time in a long time to come, the convergence of the earliest date for Hanukkah on the Jewish calendar and the American date of Thanksgiving gives us a once-in-a-lifetime chance to celebrate Thanksgivukkah.  

Nine-year old Asher Wientraub
& his Menurkey
People are going crazy for Thanksgivukkah. You can buy Thanksgivukkah T-shirts; you find special Thanksgivukkah recipes (whose not excited for latkes & cranberry sauce?!) and you can even light a Menurky. That's right, a nine year old boy raised $48,000 on Kickstarter to make menorahs shaped like turkeys just for this special year. But, don't order too late (ours is on its way); it will only work this year!

Thanksgivukkah is all over the news and Stephen Colbert is concerned that Hanukkah is stealing Thanksgiving's thunder. But the beauty of this day is it's a one-time event and these two holidays fit so well together. Hanukkah is a time of rededication to God. As the Temple was rededicated so we take time to rededicate our lives to following Yeshua. Thanksgiving is time to thank God for all that He has given us in harvest, in family and friends, and for living in such a wonderful country where we can worship in freedom.

So, this year, on Thanksgivukkah, eat latkes with cranberry sauce, play dreidel with family and friends while the candles of your Menurkey burn bright, enjoy turkey and Sufganiot (oil fried donuts for Hanukkah), sit at a big table with your favorite people and all kinds of Fall decorations everywhere. Above all, thank God for seasons like these that remind us of God's promise to never leave us, His people, Jews and Gentiles, men and women of every age. This Thanksgivukkah let's celebrate the awesomeness of God Who sent His son, Yeshua, to be a light to the world, and Who instructs us, His followers, to rededicate ourselves to God and be thankful for all the blessings in our lives. That is the meaning of Thanksgivukkah.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Happy Rabbi

Here is proof that I am happy all the time.  My daughter, Emma (7), wrote about me in her homework for this week.  "My Dad is happy all the time" and it is usually true except for the times it is not.  I am a big believer in the idea that meanings of name matter.  It comes from the traditions of the Bible in which children were named based on what happened during pregnancy, birth, or a prophecy concerning their future decisions and life.  

When my mom was pregnant with me, a woman in the church (before Messianic Judaism) they were attending came up to her, put her hands on my mom's belly, and said "This will be a happy child."  So my parents named me Matthew Asher.  Matthew means "God's gift" and Asher means "Happy".  So, together, my name means God's gift of happiness.  My normal disposition is happy.
I have many years of pictures with the same happy face and I am teaching the next generation the ways of the happy face.  I love being happy.  I have found that in the many circumstances of life there are all kinds of attempts to steal my happiness and joy.  There are critics that don't like what I do, how I dress, my love for comic books, my love for movies, my love for God, etc.  There is a whole spiritual realm that are the enemies of God that would love to see me depressed, sad, complaining and frustrated. There are some that say I shouldn't be so transparent and live my life so publicly. There are a variety opinions of how I should live my life.

So, here it is: I am happy! I can't help but be happy because of the grace and mercy of God on my life. I can't help but be happy because I have a beautiful wife, Laura, and God has given us three awesome kids.  I can't help but be happy because I don't deserve anything that I have in life; yet, God saw fit to give all of it to me. I can't help but be happy because I serve an amazing congregation, Beit Messiah, in a super awesome city, Seattle. I follow Yeshua (Jesus) and I am happy because He gave His life for me so that I could follow Him with all of my heart, soul and strength...and He deserves all credit, glory, and honor for anything good that I am or do!

Here is the new theme verse for my life:
1 Timothy 1:15-16
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Messiah Yeshua came into the world to save sinners –of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Messiah Yeshua might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.”

I admit my goal is to not be like anyone who has come before me.  I admit that I like to break "rules" for what a rabbi is supposed to look and act like. I am quite comfortable and confident in my own skin. I like myself. I like the way God made me. I recognize that without Yeshua I would still be stuck in, and defined by, my sin. I am happy because Yeshua has set me free from the expectations of the world around me and wants me to live according to His expectations for me, which is to be awesome and bring Him glory.

Word to the wise: don't try to steal my happiness. It won't work. I'm the Happy Rabbi.
Are you happy? Are there people trying to steal your happiness? What do you do about it?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Don't Have An Easy Fast For Yom Kippur!

As Yom Kippur begins this evening, one of the traditional greetings for Yom Kippur is “have an easy fast”.

Leviticus 16:29-31 says regarding Yom Kippur,

“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work –whether native- born or an alien living among you– because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. It is a sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance."

Denying ourselves is not supposed to be easy. We don’t want an easy fast. We want to have a beneficial fast. We want a life changing fast. We want to understand better what it means to, as Isaiah 58:14 (Haftarah for Yom Kippur) says, “find your joy in The Lord”. We find it by denying ourselves our regular work. We find it by denying ourselves our regular food for 25 hours. We prepare ourselves to allow the atonement that God has freely given through Yeshua to settle in our hearts and minds. We want a life changing fast. We want to be made more in the likeness of our Messiah. We want, this year, to be forgiven. To know we are forgiven. To delight in The Lord, the God of our fathers and all He has done in the person of Yeshua! 

Have a great, awesome, hard, painful, encouraging 25 hours of fasting. So that when we come through it, we can delight in our God together and sound the Shofar again at the closing service on Saturday knowing that God was/is faithful to hear our prayers.

Click here to listen to the series "Back To Basics" for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur & Sukkot 2013/5774

My Version of Messianic Judaism is The Right One!

A few months ago I wrote about how Messianic Judaism needs to change.  Sometime before that I wrote about a "grassroots" event that my congregation hosted in Seattle.  At this event there was a beautiful moment that happened when young leaders from messianic synagogues and young leaders from Jews for Jesus came together and repented for not loving each other and treating each other as being a part of the same movement.  It was, in part, spurred by the life and death of one of the founders of Jews for Jesus, Jhan Moskowitz, who was a man of God who always preached unity in the messianic movement.  We just passed the one year anniversary of Jhan's death and he has been on my mind a lot.  

I was jogging yesterday morning and I began to weep (not that odd for me) because of something the God of Israel has been doing in my heart and mind over this last year.  I grew up with the idea that my version of Messianic Judaism is the "right one."  I would look at other forms of Messianic Judaism or Jewish people that belonged to churches and I would think "If only they would live like a real messianic Jew should. If only they would live like me."  It now seems so painfully obvious to me that my attitude for most of my life has been...well...sin.

This brings me back to my weeping (which, by the way, is difficult to do while jogging!). As we approach Yom Kippur this weekend I am in a place of repentance.  I no longer think my way is the right way. Don't get me wrong.  I like the way the I live out Messianic Judasim and I think there are essentials to what we belive if you are going to call yourself a "Messianic Jew" or a "Messianic Gentile" (Listen to my series at Beit Messiah on this called "Back To Basics").  But, I have come to a place where I realize that there are many ways to walk faithfully with Yeshua the Messiah.  I don't want to judge how other people walk.  Especially amazing ministries like Jews for Jesus who are celebrating 40 years of "making the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue."

I am not the keeper of the best version of Messianic Judaism.  Don't kid yourself, you aren't either. This is a new day.  I recently (October 18-20 2013) spoke at the Jews for Jesus Ingathering East Coast.  I feel so silly for pushing them away because some people are offended by their work. I have believed for so long that my version of Messianic Judaism is better than theirs. Instead, I will move forward, with them, in doing the most important work of making Yeshua known. First to my Jewish people and also to the rest of the nations on earth!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Great Messianic Preachers

Lots of people ask me "What Messinaic Preachers should I listen too?!"  Here is a list to get started.  They are all my friends and some are relatives but they are all great preachers!

Rabbi Cosmo Panzetta


Of course don't forget to listen to my sermons!

And Beit Messiah has it's own app for smart phones and tablets!!
Click here to download the app for iPhone, iPad and Android.
Click here to download the app for Windows Mobile.

Rabbi Matt Rosenberg Approved

Monday, June 10, 2013

Katie Couric, Hugo Chavez, Austin Powers and Me...God in Personality

Intervarsity put out this picture tying different Bible characters to the Myers-Briggs personality test (take a free version here and find out what you are).

If you have taken the test you know it can be quite perceptive in helping you understand your personality.  I am an ENFP which according to the picture above means I am like Peter. I have hoped that for a long time. (go here for celebrity ENFP, which says I am also like Hugo Chavez and Katie Curic!).  

Peter is both really awesome and really dumb.  He says some of the greatest things in the Bible, like his sermon in Acts 2 and "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 6:16).  He also says some of the worst things like the time he tries to conivince Yeshua he won't have to die and Yeshua replies "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." (Matthew 16:23).

I have found in my life that I am a man of extremes.  I do some awesome things and some dumb things. I am Peter with a touch of Paul in Romans 7:15, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Historically, that's me in a nutshell! 

can't see the video: click here!

People have great reactions to this picture on Intervarsity's facebook page. First of all, I think it is meant to be funny. Second, Judas is not listed, all though he most certainly had a personality type.  Third, write your own story.  God gave you a personality to gain glory for himself through it.  Use what you have been given! Romans 11:36

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Messinanic Judaism Needs to Change Some Methods Not the Message

I wrote a recent blog (read it here) and made the statement, "Messianic Judaism is not working in my generation". This generated a lot of comments mostly on Facebook. I want to flesh that out a bit...
Pastor Andy Stanley wrote, "The...leaders who are seemingly most concerned about the dropout rate of that demographic [18-25 years old] are the very ones who create the weekend experiences that this demographic finds entirely unengaging."

I go to a lot of conferences. I can't even count how many time Messianic leaders say, "We are losing the next generation." or "We have lost the next generation." or "We need to do a better job reaching the next generation." In recent years, I have made similar statements based on a large number of friends that I grew up with in Messianic Judaism who have left Messianic Judaism for a variety of reasons. 

As a Messianic Rabbi's son I have fought many times for certain methods that I was taught. I have fought for things I considered to be non-negotiable of Jewish ministry. For instance I have preached on the Torah portions for the last 7 years. Recently, I realized that I had become tired with my own sermons. The text lost some life for me because I boxed myself into a system. Understand me, I am not opposed to the Torah and Haftarah cylce. But I am opposed to not being inspired. I have preached my best sermons in the last six months because I made a change in something that I would never have done previously. 

My overwhelming desire is to share Yeshua my Messiah with my generation, specifically with young, typically secular, Jewish people. I have come to openly wonder if some of the things I have been doing, convinced of their importance, actually had become roadblocks to me sharing Yeshua effectively.

What matters most in my generation is authenticity. I want to be authentically me. This idea led me on a path of discovery that I would of never imagined. I'm not by any means perfect; simply ask my wife she will confirm that! But I noticed in my preaching and in the way that I dressed for Shabbat and for rabbinical duties that I didn't feel quite like myself. I am an open book, a New Yorker. If you ask me what I think, I will tell you. And I found getting dressed up for Shabbat was, for me (not for everyone), not being true to who I am. Of course there are many convinced that dressing up is essential for Jewish people hearing the Gospel. There are expectations of what a rabbi is and what a rabbi looks like that should not be messed with. My nature has always been to mess with such things. (I wrote about this a few years ago. read it here!) Nothing gives me more satisfaction than hearing "I've never met a rabbi like you." After all, if I am following after Yeshua's example, that is exactly what I am going for!

My latest experiment is not wearing a tallit when I preach. A tal
lit is a traditional prayer shawl and there would be an expectation that a rabbi would wear one in synagogue. As I do. I wear it from the start of the service through the end of the Torah service and then take it off to preach. I wonder if removing some of the religious elements from my method will open some
people to the message. Because of some of my favorite preachers, I sit in a chair, use a teaching table, have a cup of tea and use an iPad. The message has not changed but methods are transitioning into something more comfortable for me and for my listeners. Listen, the message is not comfortable. The message is the truth of the Word of God. The message is that Yeshua is the God of our fathers. That is not comfortable for many listeners. I want people to have an opportunity to be offended by what I am saying and not by anything else in the presentation. It won't work for everyone. Some young people won't like my presentation. Some in the generations ahead of me won't like it either. I am not in this for everyone to like my presentation. I am going for people that Messianic Judaism has yet to reach. I am attempting to reach people who will respond to a particular way that God has gifted me to share about Him. It's cool with me if you don't dig my presentation. But, if some young Jewish people come and hear what I have to say, it is all worth it. Because they are what I am in this for!

While connection to our Jewish past is important to me, I think we, Messianic Jews, have an obligation to mess with and change things. Pastor Craig Groeshel says, "if you want to reach people no one is reaching, you have to do things no one else is doing." I'm not talking about changing the message or even watering it down. The Shema is still the Shema (although I wouldn't mind changing the tune). The Word of God is still the Word of God. But traditions that come from men can and should be changed for new generations. No one can claim that they are reaching young Jewish people in such large numbers that nothing should change. Many of the current leaders of Messianic congregations and organizations came to Yeshua through the Jesus movement in the 60's and 70's. It was a counter-cultural movement that intentionally chose new methods of reaching people with a never-changing message. There has to be new methods for this generation and I am on a journey of discovering some of those methods.

It is often said "imitation is the highest form of flattery"...but...maybe not. What if the highest form of honor to the generations before us is to become the best of our own generation? After all, this is not anything unique to Messianic Judaism. It is the struggle of l'dor v'dor (generation to generation). Are we supposed to look, act and talk exactly like those who came before us? Or, did they raise us to be the best version of ourselves who walk after the God of our fathers with all of our heart, soul & strength? I think the highest form of honor to my parents is being everything that God has called me to be in my generation; not carbon copies of them, but walking in the dual identity they raised me in for I am entirely Messianic and entirely Jewish at the same time.  I am confident that a Messianic Judaism that honors our past and makes changes for the present and future is a Messianic Judaism that will work in my generation. Not changing for change sake but making changes in our methods to be more effective in sharing the message of Yeshua in this generation.

What if our services, events, and conferences were entirely engaging to 18-25 year olds. What would they even look like? What would have to change in what we do now to get there? How much more effective would Messianic Judaism be if the focus shifted to empowering our young people to the best of their generation in every field that they put their hands to? My dad says often, "I don't want my children to be like me; I want them to be better versions of me." What if we look at changes in our methods like that?

What changes would you make to services, events and conferences to be more effective in reaching young secular Jewish people?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Two Life Changing Observations From Two Great Pastors

I went to Abilene Texas to visit Beltway Park Baptist Church in January with 7 other Messianic leaders. We went to spend time with Pastor David McQueen and his leadership team/staff.  It was an amazing trip on so many levels (read about it here).  Pastor David has relationships with many Messianic leaders and has great insight into our community and leadership in general.  He made a statement concerning Messianic leaders that has stuck with me.  He said, "It seems to me that unless an idea is Jewish in its inception many Messianic leaders will not consider using it." Boom!  I have found this true, even in myself, far too often.

Ideas are not legitimate/illegitimate because of who/where they come from.  Great ideas and bad ideas come from everywhere. In particular, the Church has so much to offer Messianic Judaism.  I know, "They don't get us" or "They are theologically opposed to us".  I know. But, that shouldn't keep the Messianic Movement from using great ideas that come from the Church, especially when it comes to reaching people through culture and working to reach this present generation.  We make statements like "Well, that works for them but Jewish people are different." Are we so sure we get our own people?  Sometimes I think we forget that people are people.  We are all affected by culture.  We all have the same hurts and pains.  We all need the same Yeshua (salvation).  

I recently had coffee with Pastor Joe Fuiten from Cedar Park Church in Seattle.  He is an incredibly gracious and well-rounded charismatic pastor.  He made some observations that were fantastic.  I asked him for some tips on congregational growth. He said, "Messianic's have a tendency to think that growth will/and should come from the specific message you offer.  But, real growth will come from people having encounters with God." Shazam!

I believe in what I preach.  I believe that we need to restore the Jewishness of the Gospel.  I believe Messianic Judaism is an end-time fulfillment of prophecy.  But, if people's lives are not changing, who cares? If people are not having encounters with the God of Israel, Yeshua, our Messiah, why does any of it matter?

I am grateful to these two men of God and the time they gave me. Let's be real, Messianic Judaism isn't working in my generation.  The message isn't the problem.  Yeshua is still king over all the earth.  Perhaps some of the things we hold to as "this should never change" or "but that's how we have always done it" are actually holding us back from doing our part to build the Kingdom of God?

What do you think?

For more on this click here!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Without Unity We Might As Well Give Up! Grassroots in Seattle 2013

"What is Grassroots?" is the common question asked by anyone who hears of it. Grassroots is not an organization.  It has no affiliation.  It has no money of its own.  It has a core team of leaders who lead it.  But, it is a team that leads together.  My congregation, Beit Messiah in Seattle, had the pleasure of co-hosting a Grassroots event on the weekend of March 8-10 along with our sister congregation, Beit Tikvah in Newcastle, WA.
From the event on Facebook for the weekend, Grassroots is "an intentional set of relationships among young people across Messianic Judaism. We are committed to seeing the younger generations within the Messianic Jewish community get to know each other and to take ownership in the future of our respective organizations. One way that we act this out is by joining together for a weekend on a yearly basis, providing opportunities to unify through worship, prayer, and fellowship."  That's it. Many people seem to want more information but there really isn't anything more to it.
I am reminded of one of the closing scenes of History channel’s "Hatfields & McCoys."  The leader of the Hatfields speaks to the ongoing feud between these two famous families and says to his son, "You gonna have children one day; your children are not going to care about our old grudges and slights from long ago. And their children won't even know about it. It's time to move on." - Anse Hatfield (Kevin Costner).
Grassroots began with a desire from a set of people who grew up in the Messianic movement that were disappointed that they did not know each other. They wanted to be intentional in creating opportunities for young people that grew up in different organizations to get to know each other. That was seven years ago.  Many events later Grassroots continues to grow.  Not as a group or an organization but as a movement with the Messianic movement.  It is a movement of young people that strive for unity among each other, our congregations, and even to the existing organizations that we each represent and participate in.   
For Grassroots, this was the first event on the West Coast and about 80 people came out for the weekend.  We all met for a great Shabbat dinner hosted by Beit Tikvah and put together by Eliza Latimer.  We said the blessings for Shabbat and a great time of worship followed dinner.  On Shabbat morning the Grassroots attendees came to worship with us at Beit Messiah.  We hosted a lunch made by Janelle Behrens of Beit Messiah and then took everyone over to Gas Works Park which looks over the Seattle skyline and beautiful Lake Union.  Saturday evening we said the blessings for havdallah and worshiped together again.  It was during this time of worship that the core team of Grassroots felt that the Lord's desire was to have a time of repentance between those of us from the congregational side of the Messianic movement and those of us from, the missional side of the Movement, represented by Jews for Jesus.  
Jonathan Moore, from Israel, talked about the heart of Grassroots from the beginning.  It is a set of ideals not even an event.  The idea being that what happens at Grassroots events would take root in the attendees and it would change the way we view each other and endeavor to take unity back to wherever we are from.  Then, I was asked to remember Jhan Moskowitz, one of the founders of Jews for Jesus.  I talked about his recent passing and the heart that he had for unity in our Movement regardless of organizational affiliation. Jhan was the best of us.  He was loved in and out of Jews for Jesus.  He was loved by leaders of every Messianic organization even in times where organizations had issues with each other. No one had issues with Jhan.  His heart was for all of us to be together and at his memorial it showed.  Both in New York and Chicago Jhan was remembered by representatives of every Messianic organization. I recalled what my dad, Rabbi David Rosenberg, shared at Jhan's memorial in New York City. He pointed out that even in death Jhan was bringing us together and in his absence we have a responsibility to do the work of unity that Jhan hoped for.  Jhan, many months after his passing, was the catalyst to what happened even at Grassroots in Seattle.   
The mic was passed to Troy Wallace, assistant leader of El Shaddai Congregation in Maryland, and Vanessa Leef who lead us in a time of repentance -- for those who have distanced ourselves from Jews for Jesus for all kind of reasons in all kinds of conversations; for those of us who have said and thought negative things towards J4J as an organization and against the people who do the work of this important Messianic institution.  Aaron Trank, minster at large for J4J, and Aaron Abramson, branch leader in Manhattan for J4J, came up to the mic and shared their heart for repentance from the missional side towards the congregational side and made a renewed commitment to support the congregational side of the Movement.  We prayed for each other. We cried with each other.  We felt and experienced the kind of unity that Jhan always talked about. We dedicated ourselves as representatives of different groups to trusting each other and working through our differences towards something greater, unity!
For me, the event was summed up by Troy Wallace on Friday night when he said, "I believe in a diverse Messianic Judaism that dwells in unity!"  Grassroots is not something we pay dues too. We all belong to different Messianic organizations that all do great things.  Grassroots is not even so much an event or events.  It is a time of intentional relationship that serves as a catalyst to change us.  The Messianic movement is made up of people.  People wound and hurt each other.  We didn't promise to stop hurting each other.  We committed to working through our wounds and hurts and letting God move through us with the goal of one Movement with different parts, all doing important things for the Kingdom of God, trusting each other’s roles.  Disagreeing on form and method but united in the idea that Yeshua our Messiah has so much more for all of us, together!
What is Grassroots? That’s a great question!  While I do not represent the core team in any leadership capacity, in my mind it is an opportunity to learn from and trust each other beyond the groups we belong to.  It is an opportunity to let the God of Israel move through His people in unity.  It is something to take home and bring unity to our congregations and communities.  It is a desire to stop speaking against each other and support each other even with some disagreement.
I was so blessed to be a part of this event.  Beit Messiah was blessed and honored to help co-host grassroots.  I know it will affect Messianic Judaism in Seattle.  My desire, which is shared by Rabbi Hylan Slobodkin of Beit Tikvah and Rabbi Jason Forbes of Beit HaShofar in Tukwila, WA, is to see God show Himself among our Jewish people here in a new and fresh way in Seattle.  The more we work together the more I am confident He will!  For the Messianic movement as a whole, the more we take hold of the unity God desires in our Movement the more movement we will have. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Two Recent Articles: Passover & Grassroots

I wrote two recent articles.

The first, talks about Passover and the wonderful time of year we are approaching called "the season of freedom"!  The article was written for the MJAA (Messianic Jewish Alliance of America) website.  Click here read it.

My second article is about an event that took place in Seattle in March. The event was Grassroots. Over 80 young people from all over the country came to celebrate Yeshua and build intentional relationships.  This article was written for the website of the Messianic Times. Click here to read it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The. Best. Trip (To a Church). Ever!

This past week I and seven of my Messianic Rabbi friends visited Beltway Park Baptist Church in Abilene, Texas.  I met Pastor David McQueen at the Jewish Voice Leaders’ Roundtable in November and asked him if I could come and hang out with him and learn about leadership.  He encouraged me to get a group of young Messianic leaders together to come and his church would foot the bill.  

I love leadership.  I love learning about leadership. I love reading about leadership.  I love being with people who are awesome leaders. David McQueen has seen his church grow from about 150 people to 4,000.  I know, you don't care about numbers.  But, numbers represent people, people who need God.  And if there is a place that is reaching people with the Gospel and changing peoples’ lives, I am game to hang out there. 

So we went to Abilene -- 8 messianic leaders under the age of 40:  Myself (Beit Messiah, Seattle, WA), Jude Caracelo (Kol Mashiach, Melbourne, Fl), Jesse (Fl), Tim Hyslip (Baruch HaShem, Phoenix, AZ), Cosmo Panzetta (Beth Yachad, Phoenix, AZ), S.K. (Raleigh, NC) Ari Waldman (Baruch HaShem, Dallas, TX), and Troy Wallace (El Shaddai, Frederick, MD). We went to watch and learn.  

What impressed me the most was how excellent everything was -- from the screens, microphones, iPads for the worship team, to the soundboards (yes, that is plural, as in several rooms had their own).  With large numbers comes lots of money and with lots of money comes great stuff.  Beltway has great stuff.  But more than all of that was the excellence of their people -- from the full-time staff, to part-time staff, to the people who attend on Sunday morning, to the Poormans who let us stay in a great little ranch that met all of our needs.  They really went out of their way to pour into us and treat us like kings. I hope to be able to do the same for people that want to come learn from me in 15 years.

I go to a lot of leadership conferences. I read and hear a lot of messages on leadership.  What I have not had the opportunity to do was be in the meetings or the back room conversations involving that leadership.  I see a lot of services and have planned many myself but to be in on the conversations of such a great congregation was a once in a lifetime chance (let's call it twice in lifetime because I plan to go back!).  Sitting in on meetings with the senior leadership team and the elders was awesome.  Watching how their sermon and creative teams worked to come up with different ways to present the message was inspiring. Seeing the kids’ service, the teen service, and the adult service was fantastic.  Even more, each service had a great ministry time that was not only purposeful and effective but geared to each specific group.  Of course I cried through all of the services because that's how I roll.  I felt the presence of God from the time we landed to the time we went home.  

Spending time with my young leader friends, the "future" of Messianic Judaism, was really outstanding!  It's funny when people refer to us as the future since we are all leading congregations right now.  It's also interesting to note that in our movement we are considered young when in reality the majority of us are approaching forty years old.  Not so young considering that almost everyone in leadership at Beltway Park is the same age as our group (Even the senior pastor is not that far off).  No one at Beltway looks at them as the future but rather just the leaders who are leading now.  But, I digress...

Probably the most significant part of the trip was the time the senior leaders spent with us and how they openly shared everything about their church with our group.  Pastor David and Pastor Keith really spent a ton of time with us and let us ask all kinds of questions and they really took the time to pour into us as leaders.  We walked away from this trip with a sense of how awesome it is when brothers and sisters gather together in unity and what it means to be a part of the larger body of Messiah!

We realized that during our time the Torah portion for the week was Yitro.  Yitro, the father-in-law of Moses, comes to Moses and teaches him all about leadership.  Man, did we learn from some amazing Jethros!  If you think I am implying that I and my friends are Moses you would be right.  In the end, as a group of 8 leaders, we committed to making ourselves better so that we can lead our Jewish people to Yeshua and to the salvation that He offers to all who call on His name. There were times where in the words of Cosmo we felt "like hobbits among the nephalim"!  Even their teenagers were giants! Ok, Maybe just me and Cosmo felt that way. We are short but we are confident in ourselves. 

Some Messianics have asked me, "Why go to a church to learn?"  The short answer is they are better than we are in so many ways.  Many in our Movement think that if an idea is not Jewish in its inception then it has no merit.  For me, I see great value in learning from our brothers and sisters in Yeshua (they call him Jesus ;).  They are Jethros for us.  Many in the Church use the language of older brother and younger brother.  As Jewish followers of Yeshua, we are "older brothers" in terms of faith and heritage.  But, in terms of building communities dedicated to sharing the message of Yeshua with all people, we become "younger brothers." The Jewish part and the Gentile part of the Body of Messiah have much to learn from each other and much blessing to share with each other as well.  And man were we blessed! (Yes, that is a fried egg on my TX Burger!)

Thank you Beltway Park Baptist Church.  Thank you Pastor David, Pastor Keith and the whole staff who showed us what a heart for Israel and young leaders looks like.  Don't worry we will be back!